Chapter 1

The roar of a detonating bomb. So unrelentless. So unforgiving. 

She rolled over onto her chest. Buried her head deep, deep beneath her pillow. No respite. A few minutes more, and she gave up the fight, cast off her moss green regiment issue covers, and swatted the alarm clock until silence reigned again. 

Pale blue eyes fluttered. 8:15, read the slightly incandescent red numbers. “Late again.” 
She’d thought that keeping the window shades open might let the sun in early. She’d forgotten that there was almost never any sun in London. 

Uncertain feet stumbled past shoes and reports strewn across the battlefield of a bedroom until they reached the bathroom and the ridged tile floor of the vapor shower. Three minutes later she rummaged through an open closet, steam wafting from her moist brown skin. Azure hair spilt in front of her face, obscuring her vision. She wished she could, would hurry.

She dumped the last clean uniform on the bed before first pulling on the gray trousers, then the white shirt and the black jacket last. After searching multiple drawers she found a brush, missing a few teeth, underneath her bed. Raking the uneven bristles through her long blue hair she marshaled up a respectable ponytail. Ready. Or, almost ready. Reaching for the bedroom door she remembered she’d forgotten her hat. Where was her hat? Forget the hat, she was late as it was. On her way out of the matchbox studio, she grabbed her gray and blue tie from the back of the lone chair watching the solitary window. 

Ah, there was her hat, waiting for her on her briefing seat in the barely five by three-foot adjourning alcove just outside her quarters. Just as she sat down the screen blinked to life. Lucky again. “Ready for work, sir,” she saluted the captain on the screen before her.

“Good morning GC Komi. We have a new assignment for you today. Are you up for it?”

“Of course, Captain.” As if there was any other answer. 

“His name is Ryan Johnson. He’s a small arms dealer. Nothing too dangerous. If you need help, call back up. I’m sending you a file copy right now. Good luck.” The screen died and a manila folder appeared hovering over the tele-beamer.

Komi got up from her chair and tossed her hat back on it. “Hideous,” she muttered and strode out into the hall with the folder tucked under her arm. 

Other galactic cops exited the barracks along side her. All of them Level Threes like her; all of them ready to take on the galaxy or galaxies. Komi remembered a time when she couldn’t help but feel proud to just be one of them. That was when the blue and gray lines of paint racing down the walls had seemed bright. That was three years ago. And now, three years later, she had gone no where, done nothing. 

On Ground Floor, Komi punched in her electronic time card at the first available kiosk.

“Well, well, well, Maya Komi, what do we have here?” 

“Not this morning,” mumbled Komi under her breath, turning to meet Jeson. “How are you?” she feigned a smile as Jeson seized the manila folder from beneath her arm. 

“Ryan Johnson? He’s out again?” Jeson snorted, but even the sneer of derision couldn’t muddy his handsome face. “When are they going to give you a real case, Komi?” 

How she would have liked to sock a good one to his snickering jaw, jar him out of his perfect world. He’d graduated from the academy, same class as she, but even then, he’d always been way more adept at climbing than she ever was, than she ever would be. 

Instead, Komi snatched back her folder, spun on her heels and headed for the rotating doors. One of these days, though, one of these days, she would give that jerk what he deserved. If only she could come up with some sharp insults to hurl on the spot, but her mind always went blank. 

Outside, cold, thin air toyed with Komi’s ponytail, but she didn’t notice it. Head down, dismal gray feet took a dismal gray sidewalk beneath a dismal gray sky. That was until a hand reached up waving infront of Komi’s face.

“Maya. Maya! You deaf?” yelled a green haired cop, forehead crinkled.

Komi shook her head, wavered for a moment and waited for her eyes to adjust. 

“Are you okay? You seem to be looking worse and worse these days,” her friend mused in a voice shaped—much like her oval face—with all rounded contours at the edges.

“Hi Murielle,” sighed Komi. “Just haven’t slept much recently.”

“Khaz and I are always telling you to get more sleep, Maya. It’s not healthy.”

“Um hmm.”

“Really, Maya. We’re worried about you. You...”

“Really, Murielle, I’m fine.” Not today. 

“Oh,” answered Murielle, eye’s falling for a moment. 

A posse of Galactic Cops slowed down as they passed by, “Morning, Mur!” they called.

“Morning, boys!” replied Murielle. “So, what’s your assignment for today?”

“Ryan Johnson.” If Komi could have mustered the energy, she would have sighed once more. 

“Oh,” Murielle’s face fell yet again. “I see. You can find at least one of his buddies at Venus Pub. Deni took him in last week. I was there.”

“Thanks,” replied Komi dryly as they came upon the parked patrol cars. “What’s your assignment?”

“I’m walkin’ the beat,” she smiled the kind of smile that could lure the sun to dance with the moon in the blackest night sky. “Patrol day, east district. Walk in the park, huh?”

“Yeah, well I’ll catch you later.”

Murielle smiled again, this time a little less certain, then turned and walked away. 

Komi hit a button on her wristwatch and police vehicle 625 came sputtering along. Sliding into the gray leather interior, Komi couldn’t help but wonder as she often did, “Maybe I should get a transfer--start over again.” But there was no starting over again. Not really. There was only giving up everything…to do what? Maybe slave away for a robot in a factory somewhere. Leaving your guild meant perpetual un(der)employment. The door to the hovercraft lowered like a bird’s wing and then the vehicle buzzed off towards the west side of the city.

Arrive: Venus Pub. Sure enough, the illegal small time weapons dealer, Ryan Johnson, lounged at the bar, eyes intent on the football match playing out on the elevated screen. Komi wished he was anywhere else. Anywhere else. This wasn’t a case; it was an insult. 

“Ryan Johnson, you’re under arrest under code 75183. Don’t move.” She slid a pair of magnetic cuffs from her waistband and slapped them on his wrists. He didn’t protest. “I’m sure you’re quite used to this. We’re not going anywhere just yet, so sit down and make yourself comfortable.”

“Alright by me. Still twenty minutes left in the game,” he turned to take in the corner kick.    

“Shut up. Tender, a pint.”

“Komi, it ain’t even ten in the morning. Something soft, eh?”

Eye’s on the corner kick being taken on the screen, Komi ignored the tender, saying instead, “Jack, I’m thinking about getting a new job.”

“A new job? Komi, being an officer’s a good job, and prospective employment ain’t so great these days,” said the tender, passing her a root beer float and leaning against the bar. “Change that attitude, Komi and you’ll see life in a whole new light.”

Having successfully diminished the contents of the mug to nothing, Komi motioned for the criminal to follow her outside, where she unceremoniously ushered him into the back of the police vehicle. Coughing, the car rose from the cracked cement. 

“You know, this car really needs a tune up,” Ryan Johnson mused.

“Shut up. Just sit there and shut it.” Nosing into light traffic, Komi clenched the steering wheel hard enough she thought she might leave a permanent mark. “Are you really that stupid? Of all the places to take in a game, why Venus? It has to be the pub most frequented by GP. You like prison or something?”

“Woam there! Take it easy. You’re the one they sent to arrest me, remember. Hey, don’t feel so bad,” Ryan reclined in the hard leather of the backseat, moving to stretch his arms. Then, as though caught unawares, he recalled that his wrist were tethered together. Shrugging, he settled for relaxing with his legs as outstretched as possible in the cramped back seat. “Aye, I’m not as stupid as you think, as GP thinks,” he continued. 
Komi raised a thin black eyebrow to that. 

“See,” and he leaned forward, lips just behind the silver guard railing, just behind her ear, so close that his surprisingly cool breath tingled against Komi’s caramel macchiato skin. “My mates are coming to bust me out. After they do, they’ll blow up the London Deparment. It’s not so bad. You wanted a new job? You seem reasonably disaffected. Come with us. You could spring me right now.”

Komi could feel his grin stinging the back of her neck. “I told you to sit there and shut it.” Blow up the London Department? The second largest department on earth? Where did this idiot get off, she wondered. “I’m being consoled by a criminal,” she sighed. “Say, just in case, you know, would you mind testifying to all this? They might put you in Psych. The rooms are much more comfortable there.”

“Oh no!” Johnson protested, waving his manacled hands. “No can do.”

“Thought so.”

With that, Johnson tipped back his chin, and drifted into a leisurely snooze.

By the book, Komi recounted everything Johnson had told her in an early afternoon debrief. In between rounds of indoor mini golf, her superiors had laughed off Ryan Johnson’s threats even though she suggested that they take him a little bit seriously. Maybe what she really meant to say was that they take her a little bit seriously. At any rate, the police chief and commander were prepared to do neither. After dictating her report, Komi crawled into bed with a bowl of popcorn all for the purpose of sulking. She sat starring straight ahead at the blank gray wall as invisible hands pulled a weighted string attached to the bottom of her chin down, down until she could not resist anymore, and her head met her chest in sleep. 

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